Adjusting To The New Normal

The world around us has experienced some changes over the last 2 years. The initial shock of “temporary” pandemic measures (shutdowns, masking, social distancing, etc.) has given way to the realization that a return to our previous “normal” just isn’t going to happen. Some of the changes are, indeed, temporary, while others are here to stay.

Let’s jump into some stats:

In the U.S., 83% of adults have changed what they eat and how they get it. Some of the more temporary trends are likely to be related to pandemic measures such as modifying the way they shop in-store, reduction in dining on-premise, as well as an increase in consumption of ready-to-eat and indulgent foods.

Going online played an important role in making these adjustments with:

    • 66% of people using Search to find info on food, and
    • 57% discovering food info by way of online ads.
    • The pursuit of convenience was reflected in a 400% growth in searches for “dinner to go,”
    • while a desire for comfort and safety revealed itself as being the motivation behind 90% of these changes.

However, there are two important trends that are likely to stick around:

  1. Reliance on digital and nearby options.

Proximity and location were increasingly prioritized by consumers in choice of restaurant as indicated by a 100% increase in searches for “available near me.”

Further, safe delivery and pickup (via digital order) offered by grocery brands and the use of mobile by restaurants and QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants) created a more seamless experience for consumers.

  1. Focus on self-care

You know the “initial shock” I mentioned at the opening of the blog? Well, now that that has passed, people are starting to move away from the indulgent comfort phase. Consumers are now  beginning to intentionally focus on emerging from the pandemic in a healthier state. They aren’t simply counting calories, they are looking for foods that will help them improve and maintain their health.

    • Searches for “benefits of eating” have increased 40% year over year.
    • Additionally, 31% report striving to balance both physical and mental health through healthier food choices.

Now, that’s a lot of numbers and motivations to process to come away with some sort of “divine purpose.” So, what is the message here…? Well, I can’t help you with the “divine purpose” bit, but I can help you a little with the greater picture from a sales perspective.

Changes born of necessity in an effort to reduce contact with other people have resulted in an unprecedented availability of services like curbside pick-up, delivery, and drive-through. This level of convenience is something consumers have become accustomed to for various reasons. They are enjoying stress reducing benefits such as freeing up time that would normally be used shopping in person, fewer judging eyes on indulgent or “tv dinner” purchases, or even just not having to get out of your jammies, or your car, or even your house to get groceries.

The time savings of these conveniences has also freed people up to do some research and be more mindful in planning their grocery purchases. So now, instead of having to squeeze time into their schedule to exercise or learn about how to eat healthier, they can just replace the time they would have spent shopping. How’s that for making good choices?

One other consideration to throw into this mix is the increasing trend toward Localism – particularly the emphasis on local production and consumption of goods, etc. Currently, we are all experiencing supply chain issues with experts forecasting continuation, even worsening, of the situation. Sourcing locally as much as possible may be a part of the answer to continuing to serve your customers and staying in business.